Red Pork Tamales (or Tamales de Puerco en Chile Rojo) is traditional Mexican food at its best. So tasty. So incredibly delicious. They are worth the effort to make. With VIDEO and step-by-step tutorial.
I can’t count how many times I’ve sat in my grandmother’s kitchen making Red Pork Tamales. I don’t have enough fingers and toes. Lol. All of us crowded in her tiny kitchen smearing and filling and folding. There are hours of stories that will forever be with me. This is where I tell you that my family is from Durango, Mexico, and every family, every town has their own version, their own recipe. Adapt this recipe to make it your own.
This is pork shoulder. You can also use pork butt. Whatever cut you decide to use. Make sure you trim off any excess fat. If this is your first time making Red Pork Tamales, use boneless pork butt. It’s a cut that’s a lot easier to work with.
Some of you might be thinking it’s a lot of work to remove the skin. See the fatty outer layer? If you have a good, sharp knife, it’s not so bad.
Here’s why I’m using pork shoulder. That bone is going to give our meat tons of flavor. That and pork shoulder was on sale. Lol. No bones about it.
Place all the pork pieces in the pot. Use the biggest pot you have in your kitchen, or borrow one from your neighbor if necessary. It’s a great way to make new friends! Promise them Red Pork Tamales, or Tamales de Puerco en Chile Rojo.
Don’t go too crazy and add tons of salt. In other words, you can’t take out salt.
Then, add a whole garlic bulb and an onion to the pot.
You need plenty of water. It’s going to make a pork broth that we will use for later in the recipe.
Cook for 2 hours. Note: you can also make this in the slow cooker ahead of time the day before.
Corn husks need to be soaked. Some people leave them overnight. Use warm water to cover the husks, but you also need something heavy so they can be fully submerged. Rocks, bowling bowls, or in my case, a heavy plate.
Once your pork is fully cooked, remove the meat and save the broth. It’s porking awesome!
Shred the pork meat with two forks. Fork this pork! Fork it real good! lol.
Place the shredded pork in a large pot and make the sauce.
To make the red chile sauce is very easy. Ancho you glad it’s so easy. 😉 I am only using ancho chile, but you can also use a combination of ancho and guajillo. Take the stems off and cut in half. Then remove the seeds.
Place all the chiles in a pot. Add water and bring to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat. 5 minutes later, the chiles will be fully reconstituted.
Discard the water. I’ve started to stop using the chile water to make sauces. In Mexico, dried chiles are very dusty. One time, I even found a bug in the chile. Yuck!
Whole cumin. It’s an important ingredient in Northern Mexican dishes. If you have ground cumin, that’s fine too. Cumin plays a big role in this sauce. You can’t substitute it either.
Remember the pork broth? It’s liquid gold. You don’t have to dig in a mine for this stuff, but it is MINE to enjoy! I will even use the onions and garlic from the broth itself. All of that has flavor.
Blend until smooth. You might need to do this is stages. We are using several chiles and lots of broth.
Strain through a strainer to remove any remaining chile pieces or pieces from the pork borth. Next, reserve ½ cup of the red chile for the masa.
Add the rest of the red chile sauce to the shredded pork. Coat the meat well with the sauce. If you want it saucier, here’s you chance to add some pork broth. This will cook for about 20-30 minutes. Let it cool before you start assembling your tamales.
If this is your first time making Red Pork Tamales, buy prepared masa. It will save you tons of time. The final step is to add the red chile sauce to the masa and mix well. I do this by hand, but you can also do this with a mixer. Your masa will look orange-y. Orange you glad you’re making tamales! haha!
To assemble the Red Pork Tamales, start by shaking off some of the excess water from the corn husk. Shake it off swiftly! (Insert Taylor Swiftly)
There’s a natural curve to the corn husk. Cup with the palm of your non-spreading hand. Spread the masa evenly on the corn husk stopping halfway to the top and all the way down the bottom.
The thrill of the fill. Add the pork filling to the center of the masa. You can add more sauce if you like. To each their own. Be careful not to add too much of the sauce, or it can spill.
To start with, fold one side of the corn husk in.
Fold the other side of the corn husk in.
Lastly, fold in the pointy top to the center of the corn husk.
Carefully place the uncooked Red Pork Tamales in a container standing up. You want the open side up. Do this until you are ready to place the tamales in the steamer.
Add hot water to the bottom of the steamer and place all the tamales inside. Again, they should be open side up. Cover with a more husks and place the lid. Steam for 1 ½ hours to 2 hours. Check the water level after 30 minutes. I suggest checking the steamer every 30 minutes for water. The tamales are ready when the tamal pulls away from the corn husk easily. Hope you enjoy!
Don’t forget to Watch the Red Pork Tamales Video
Red Pork Tamales + VIDEO
- For the Pork Filling:
- 4 1/2 pounds pork butt or shoulder chopped in pieces
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 onion
- 12 dried chile ancho stems and seeds removed
- 1/2 tablespoon whole cumin
- Salt and pepper
- Pork broth reserved from the cooking
- For the Masa Dough:
- 2 ½ - 3 lbs of prepared masa
- 1 cup of red chile sauce reserved from the pork filling
- You Will Also Need:
- 40-45 corn husks
- A large steamer pot
- In a large stock pot, add the pork pieces.
- Add all the garlic, onion, 1 ½ tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.
- Cover with water about 2 inches above all the pot contents.
- Place a lid on the pot.
- Cook on low for 2 hours.
- In the meantime, soak the corn husks in warm water.
- Place an object on top of the husks that’s heavy enough so they can soak.
- Once the pork is fully cooked, remove the meat from the pot and let cool.
- Reserve the liquid from the pot.
- To prepare the red chile sauce:
- Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles.
- Place the chiles in a pot and cover with water.
- Bring the pot to a boil.
- Immediately turn off the heat.
- Let the chiles soak for 5 minutes or until pliable.
- To a blender, add the rehydrated chiles, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ tablespoon cumin, and 3 cups pork broth (from the reserved pork liquid).
- Blend until smooth.
- Taste for salt. Add salt, if needed.
- Strain the chile sauce.
- With the back of your spoon, push the sauce through the strainer.
- Reserve 1/2 cup of the red chile sauce, and set aside until ready to use.
- Once the pork is cool to the touch, shred the pork meat with two forks.
- Add the shredded pork meat to a large stock pot.
- Pour the remaining red chile sauce to the pork and 1 cup of the pork broth.
- (If you like the pork meat saucier, add 1 1/2 - 2 cups of pork broth instead).
- With your tongs, coat the meat.
- Cook for 15-20 minutes.
- (If you are making a saucier meat, cook for 30 minutes).
- Let cool slightly before assembling tamales.
- For the Masa:
- Add ½ cup of the reserved red chile sauce to the prepared masa.
- Mix well until the chile sauce is fully incorporated.
- The masa will have an orange color.
- You can do this by hand or in a mixer.
- To Assemble:
- Shake off water from the corn husk.
- Place the husk in your hand.
- Spread about 2 tablespoons of masa on the corn husk
- (Depending on the size of the corn husk you might need more or less masa).
- Only spread the masa on the bottom and halfway to the top.
- Take a tablespoon of the pork filling and add to the center of the masa.
- Fold one side of the husk in.
- Fold the other side in.
- Fold the pointy top over to the middle of the corn husk.
- Set aside.
- Continue assembling until you no longer have corn husks or filling.
- (Remember to leave a few corn husks for the pot).
- Fill the bottom of a large steamer pot with hot water.
- Insert the steamer.
- Add all your tamales with the open side up.
- Place corn husks on top of the tamales.
- Cover with a lid.
- Turn on the stove.
- Cook on low for 1 ½ hours - 2 hours.
- Check water level after 30 minutes.
- Add hot water as necessary.
- Turn off stove and let stand for 15-20 minutes before serving.
- The tamales are ready when the tamal pulls away from the husk easily.
For More Tamales Recipes
Masa for Tamales
Tamales de Rajas con Queso, Pickled Jalapeño and Cheese Tamales
Instant Pot Chicken Tamales
Beef Tamales, Tamales de Res
Chicken Salsa Verde Tamales
Northern Style Bean Tamales, or Tamales de Frijol Norteños